- Last Updated: 9:13 AM, June 21, 2012
- Posted: 1:20 AM, June 21, 2012
There’s a reason you don’t know much about the complicated and confusing mess known as “Fast and Furious.” The mainstream media have largely ignored this Obama administration scandal, which would have dominated mainstream front pages and homepages and programs for months had it all taken place under a Republican administration.
Something changed yesterday. With his attorney general imminently at risk of being held in contempt of Congress, which has happened to administration officials only four times in the past 30 years, the president of the United States moved to claim “executive privilege” in relation to some of the information sought by Congress.
At first glance, this is a perplexing move. Executive privilege is a specific power possessed by the president that allows him to withhold or shield the release of information from Congress because he is its co-equal in power.
But the “Fast and Furious” investigation has to do with the conduct of the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder, not the White House or the president.
It has to do with a botched program inside the Justice Department that led to the death of a federal law-enforcement officer.
And, as usually happens in these cases, it has grown to include the way Holder handled the fallout and whether, in an effort to mitigate the political damage, he deliberately misled congressional investigators. The House Oversight Committee claims Holder has improperly withheld more than 100,000 documents from its view.
There’s no question that Congress has the right to examine both the conduct of the Justice Department, whose budget it oversees, and the attorney general, an official confirmed by Congress and obligated by statute to provide all manner of information to relevant committees.
The decision by the president to involve himself directly in this matter is surprising because it means one of two things.
Possibility No. 1: The White House and the president were more directly involved in the “Fast and Furious” fallout than was previously thought. Otherwise, how could there be an assertion of executive privilege? Through the assertion, President Obama is opening himself up to questions about his and the White House’s involvement with an unambiguous disaster.
Possibility No. 2: The claim of executive privilege is a calculated effort to delay the release of certain documents until after Election Day. The claim throws the matter into the courts, with the ultimate adjudication in the hands of the Supreme Court. The process will take months; the Supreme Court doesn’t return to its duties until the first Monday in October.
So even if the claim is entirely baseless, it will work to protect the president from whatever revelations may be contained in the withheld documents.
No matter how you slice it, then, this is a pretty interesting situation — especially with the fact that it is likely the attorney general will be held in contempt of Congress.
So will the story get covered now?
All in all, it’s really dumbfounding how little the public has been told about “Fast and Furious,” given how colorful and melodramatic a scandal it is. A branch of the Justice Department decided to let thousands of guns sold in the United States make their way to Mexico to track their use by the drug cartels.
Everything went wrong. The Justice Department lost track of the guns, and it is believed that one of them was used to murder Brian Terry, a US Border Patrol agent — not to mention hundreds of Mexican citizens caught in the crossfire of that country’s drug war.
There have been stories, and powerful ones, especially by Sharyl Atkisson of CBS News. But there has been no media drumbeat, no constant stream of interlocking articles and broadcasts that put relentless pressure on the White House and the Justice Department.
In short order, we may have: a) an attorney general in contempt of Congress, b) a president asserting a pretty baffling claim of executive privilege that practically requires him to acknowledge White House involvement in the matter and c) an energized conservative press smelling blood.
The fact that a story as juicy as this one has been given short shrift already makes laughable the continued assertion by media panjandrums that they possess no bias toward the Obama administration.
If things continue this way, it will be an admission that they’ve assigned themselves the job of serving as the president’s blocking guard.